Chinese Communist v. American Capitalist TV, cont’d: Jon Stewart Weighs In

More on the problem of “freedom of expression” in Western television programming and the Chinese Communist Party’s move to reduce the influence of American-style programming (trash TV) in favor of more socially healthy content: John Stewart nails so much that is troublesome about unregulated American television in the first clip, and the popular Chinese drama “Bu Bu Jing Xin” (“Startled with Each Step”) I wrote about earlier this week is embedded afterward as a pretty compelling alternative form of TV that entertains without bottom-feeding.

First, Stewart:

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Next, China: This is episode 2. The hip 21st century Beijing city girl, age 25, finds herself, Dorothy-in-Oz style, trapped in palace life of the early Qing Dynasty court in the Forbidden City, inhabiting the body of a young candidate for betrothal or concubinage to the Emperor Kangxi or one of his fifty-odd sons. Several of those sons (the “Princes” named by order of birth in the episode below) are as bewitched by her mysteriously unconventional values and conduct (being 21st century) as they are by her beauty. One of the Princes, number 4, as she knows from the history classes she took three centuries later, will end up succeeding to the throne after a period of intense rivalry and intrigue against his brothers.

If it sounds all-too-stodgy and schooly, swab your ears and shoot your expectations: the writers do a great job of adding laughs along the way as our heroine’s modern ways clash with the intensely traditional (and often intensely superior) culture of the Imperial past.

Here it is:

View all 35 episodes, with English subtitles, on Viki.

6 thoughts on “Chinese Communist v. American Capitalist TV, cont’d: Jon Stewart Weighs In”

  1. Have you watched all of these yet? I’m on episode 30. Wow!! I’ve been so obsessed with the Qing dynasty for the past two weeks. Whenever I stare into space my husband asks me if my thoughts are with 4th prince and with Rouxi. In fact, I’ve started wanting to learn Chinese after learning the words for what they say all the time: “Imperial Father” “please rise” “second miss” “sister” and “yes.” My vocabulary right now would make for an awkward conversation! I’m threatening to wait on the “Holocaust” Unit this semester and do an “Asian” Unit instead, and show an episode or two of this. :)

    1. I’m so jealous. I’ve only been able to watch about 5 or 6. It’s cool that you’re picking up Mandarin while watching. And cooler that you’re getting that Imperial China buzz. I’ve been high on it for a good three years running now. Just a different planet. And while no means perfect, in many ways arguably no more imperfect than the modern world. But I’ll resist the pull to rant on that riff :)

      1. Think you might like this. Check out this awesome article in “Low-Tech Magazine” about the Chinese Wheelbarrow–how it is different from Western versions and how it responds to the demands of a crumbling road system, and military uses! Full of historical observations from visitors to China.

        Also, what classical Chinese poet do you love most? The poetry in the series is so moving, but I have no idea where it comes from. I would especially love to find poetry teenagers would like. Where should I start? Thanks…. :)

        1. That is bloody awesome, Sarah, thanks. There’s a Daoist parable in the Zhuangzi telling of a farmer who is told by a well-meaning “progressive” of the 3rd C. BCE of a machine that will increase his productivity manifold and reduce his workload at the same time. Short version: he says “no thanks” because he doesn’t want to disturb the flow that has worked for him his entire life. Fast forward 2200 years, think “wheelbarrow / Western automobile,” and you get my connection.

          Besides that, what a cool article. Bookmarked for future use.

          Here’s the link to my Diigo “China” “poetry” bookmarks, so welcome to my online treasury. The Tang Dynasty is China’s golden age of poetry — Li Po (a.k.a. Li Bai) and To Fu (a.k.a. Du Fu) — are the lyric masters of that age.

          If you go to “Ecstatic Teaching 2: It Helps to Get Drunk”, you’ll see at the end of that rhapsody several pdf’s containing my own favorite poets from the Period of Disunity, China’s post-Han Dynasty medieval period of almost 400 years (roughly contemporary with the European early medieval period, but sublimely literate by comparison): Tao Qian (Tao Yuanming), Wang Xizhi, and Ou Yang Xiu.

          Finally, here’s a gift: reading from the other great Period of Disunity school, the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove. (I call them “Confucians Without a Cause,” because they were highly literate scholars who refused to serve the degenerate ruling families of the age, and instead retreated into seclusion in the mountains with their friends to enjoy wine, poetry, music, friendship, and Daoist esoterica. For all the world, they’re so like the counter-culture of the similarly disaffected college youth of the 1960s, “tuning in, turning on, dropping out”–but 17 centuries earlier, and with more taste and artistic ability. Don’t miss Xi Kang’s “The Lute: A Rhapsody.” And tell me what you think of him and the totally endearing Ran Ji. (The book is the Columbia Anthology of Classical Chinese Literature, I think it’s called. Amazing work.)

          Thanks so much for the link. Who the heck are you? Where are you from? What do you teach?

          1. Thanks for the gifts. I LOVED the Wang Xizhi Preface to the Orchid Pavilion. I felt such kinship with him. It’s funny how this has been one of the internet’s gifts to me: I don’t feel so alone. Bloggers out there writing about real food or moving beyond schooliness or homesteading…if I hadn’t read their thoughts I might have been tempted to feel alone and isolated in my little community…and want to leave. Perhaps this is why perspicacious people always used to move to cities–to be around other people who were also *urbane.* 😛

            Responding to some of the poetry I’ve had a chance to look at: Not to oversimplify the metrical and linguistic complexities that *I’m sure* exist in the original chinese poetry, I LOVE how simple and clear they are. Description of nature, comment on dissolution, emptiness and beauty. Another image from outside. Ahh. I Can Write Those TOO! This is like my MAIN fascination—how life just keeps transforming itself from one form to another, and how we love beauty, and how we will all die. My students think I am SO depressing!! But of course, they are 16. My main philosophy is summed up in this poem:


            I teach at a semi-rural public school in North Carolina. It’s not bad–we’re near 3 universities, and my heart is in the country anyway, so it’s a nice mix. I teach World literature (sophomores) 80% of the time and American Lit (juniors) the rest. Most of them are products of a crappy educational system and unmotivated and not planning on going to a major university. (Which is fine with me, because I’m not sure that’s there’s not more pleasure to be had working with the hands anyway.) They do not think critically and are so uncreative sometimes it hurts. Thanks a lot, mandatory state and federal multiple choice testing every six weeks the entire time they’ve been in school. On the other hand, they make me laugh so often and I bless them for that! Their drawings to illustrate vocab words are enough to make me want to come back every day. That and reading a cryptic poem to them every day to see what they make of it.

            I am hoping to be able to carry the torch farther into this semester. Usually, the second term rolls around and I start to despair. It doesn’t help that I always teach the Holocuast Unit then. (I am a sensitive soul I guess and there’s only so many times I can watch footage of bulldozers and corpses before I become existential.) Not this year!! I am going to delve into Asian Literature like never before. I might even teach Siddhartha (I know!! Not Asian) to my regular level sophomores. And definitely Stephen Mitchell’s Dao translation. Will they get it? Probably not. But that’s ok. :)

            So that’s what I teach and if that hasn’t answered who the heck am I, then I will say this: I am just a lover of bliss looking for revelation and a better way to bake sourdough. And a garden to call my own. Thanks for your intellectual companionship! Tell me what you think when you get further in the series. It starts becoming a good lesson that those with the most power are sometimes the least free.


          2. OH! and in response to Lute. What I noticed (esp see stanza 3) is that they had a sense that the music that comes from the instrument ultimately comes from the earth that made the instrument…the lute music is born from TREES on the “lofty ridges of steep mountains,” living in the daily rhythm of “the red glow of the evening sky” and the “morning sun.” And the trees wait millenia for the right person to come along and witness, harness and refine their potential beauty. “quietly they repose, forever robust.” Is it just me, or do these guys sense the unity of all forms? Perhaps I am reading my own bias into it! really lovely.

            and I liked how he said not everyone can appreciate it. (stanza 11)
            *thinks about own classroom of chuckle heads*
            I’m sure I will never grasp the finer details of carburetors either.


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